Temple center Matt Hennessy was ready to have an in-person interview with the Eagles leading up to the NFL draft when the coronavirus pandemic shut down everything.
His scheduled visit was March 13.
“I was in Philadelphia and was going to go down to the complex that day and visit with everybody but wasn’t able to due to the circumstances,” Hennessy said last week by phone.
Hennessy eventually had the meeting with the Eagles via Zoom. “I thought the meeting went well, and of course I’d be thrilled to go there," he said.
In truth, he would be thrilled to go to any of the 32 NFL teams.
Hennessy, who earned his degree in finance in December, was a redshirt junior, but bypassed his final season at Temple.
Since then, he played in the Senior Bowl and participated in the NFL scouting combine, where the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Hennessy ran a 5.18 40-yard dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 23 times.
He has been at home during the pre-draft process in Rockland County, New York, about 20 minutes from Manhattan.
“We’re in New York in one of the hotter [coronavirus] zones, but I’m just staying in the house and staying away,” he said.
While at home, he has kept busy talking to NFL teams. With less than two weeks to go before the draft that begins Thursday, he estimated having had video interviews with approximately a dozen teams.
“It continues to pick up,” he said.
As with many players, staying in shape has been a challenge.
“I got lucky, one of my childhood friends has a garage gym setup that has just about everything I need,” he said. “So I am able to maintain business as usual.”
Running has been a different story.
“That’s been a little more challenging because all the fields are closed down now as well, so I have just been relying on yard space,” he said.
What has also been challenging has been the interview process, especially when NFL teams will give him a play and ask for his feedback.
“There is that added communication barrier when talking through a screen and when it comes to teaching," he said. "Being able to teach things back to them, it can become a little bit difficult working through the screen but really not that much of a difference.”
For Hennessy, that has been just a minor inconvenience. He has been happy to interview with NFL teams, whether on Zoom, FaceTime, or Webex.
As for where he may be drafted, Hennessy is projected to go in the second or third round.
One of the NFL Network’s draft analysts, Bucky Brooks, rated Hennessy No. 4 among interior linemen, which included guards and centers.
“We’re getting a better idea [of his draft position] and of course a million things could change between now and then, but as of right now it looks like, I am pretty confident, somewhere in the second round,” Hennessy said.
Hennessy started 36 of 38 games at Temple, including one during his first year when he played three games but then redshirted.
This past season, he was a first-team all-American Athletic Conference choice and a third-team Associated Press all-American. He was also a finalist for the Rimington Award, presented to the country’s top center.
Hennessy has the ability to play guard, but center appears to be his best position, especially because of his intelligence, something that has been lauded by all of his coaches at Temple — Matt Rhule, Geoff Collins, and Rod Carey.
As an aside, Hennessy got to meet with Rhule, now the coach of the Carolina Panthers, during the Senor Bowl and the combine. “It was great to see him and all the former Temple coaches on his staff,” Hennessy said.
Hennessy, whose brother Thomas is a long snapper for the New York Jets, is like any prospect in that he can’t wait until he can finally know his next destination.
“It’s such a weird time right now in the world and it kind of feels like we are moving in slow motion, but it’s crazy to think that it is so close to happening,” he said.
No matter where he gets drafted, Hennessy said he is happy with his decision, although he says leaving Temple wasn’t easy.
“After talking to a lot of people, we were confident in that decision,” he said. “And since then, it has been the same way and now I am looking forward to the draft.”